DEAR ANT: I am the costume and props committee chairperson for my daughter’s high school musical. This is the third time I have taken on this responsibility so I have experience. Whenever one of the other committee members makes a ridiculous suggestion or asks a dumb question, I do my best to explain things in simple terms. Occasionally I become exasperated with their stupidity and ineptness and I say something I shouldn’t. For example, today we were discussing some props for a particular scene that have been difficult to locate. I suggested we try to find the items on Craigslist. One of the women said she’d never heard of Craigslist. Very innocently, I exclaimed, “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of Craigslist!” Apparently the other committee members found this offensive, stomped off and left me to handle the day’s work by myself. My question for you is how do I handle this situation? We are working against a deadline so I don’t have time to entertain every ridiculous and amateurish idea they have just to keep them feeling happy and important. I know I should bit my tongue, but if I “dumb down” and don’t acknowledge their unsophisticated approach to this project, I feel I am not doing my duty to design the professional looking costumes and props that this production deserves and that the theater director is expecting. –STRUGGLING TO STAY SENSITIVE
DEAR STRUGGLING: Instead of giving you advice, how about I ask you to take a stab at answering the following letter? Keep in mind there are two sides to every story.
DEAR ANT: As mothers of high schoolers with roles in their school musical, my friend and I volunteered to design costumes and pull together props for the production. We are working with one other stage mother, the self-proclaimed chairwoman of the committee. She is an over-bearing braggart who feels her primary responsibility is to point out how smart she is and how dumb we are. If we make a suggestions or disagree with her, she rolls her eyes and gives us a lecture on professional costume design techniques. As far as we can tell she has no actual experience short of volunteering on previous school plays. To put it bluntly, she is an annoying, self-absorbed control freak. We agreed to help design the costumes at the theater director’s request because he was desperate for volunteers. The “chairwoman” has a reputation for being difficult and no one wants to work with her…now we know why. How do we get her to shut up so we can get the costumes designed and props organized by opening night which is fast approaching? –”DUMB & DUMBER”
Sound familiar? Relax. I did not receive this letter from your co-volunteers, but it’s not hard to imagine that I could have. It’s my guess that what’s going on “behind the scenes” between you and the other costume volunteers is probably somewhere between the situation depicted in your letter and my imaginary one.
Now for my advice. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Once you stop all your talking and start listening you just might find that you are not the only one with clever, creative ideas. Good luck. –ANT
© 2o12 by Antoinette D. Datoc
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